MATCH REPORT: Selection questionable, Outcome still in contention

May I start with an apology. If this report is not totally accurate and fair on the individuals then I am sorry but I have never been to a football match where I have been in the front row and so many people pass in front of me from start to finish of a game. Now I know this is not the cinema but is it too much to expect 1) stewards to get into a position and stay there or 2) for supporters to arrive in their seats before kick off or 3) people to get their food, toiletries done before kick off and during half time. I accept that some of this may have occurred because people left after work and the traffic made arriving on time difficult! Add to this the fact that if you are a Season Ticket holder and get your match ticket early you are actually more likely to end up with a crap seat! and so I found myself in row A in a position slightly left of the goal, very low down and with the net and the goalkeepers towel making viewing very difficult particularly for seeing things the other end which seems a mile away.

Weather wise it was a good night for football and I arrived in a pretty positive mood but would say that on seeing the team sheet I was surprised with the line up and set up which I found truly amazing considering we were playing a team who are sat third from the bottom for a reason. I could almost have excused this if DC had selected it for the Northampton away game but for me the wing back system is mainly for a team who have no faith in their centre halves and even less in their midfield and wingers!!! To play three players who have been out in the cold recently and two full backs who have been playing well as out and out full backs as wing backs with a midfield three of Gosling, Lines and Ollie Clarke for me is as defensive as you can go and had all the signs for me of being a team that was set up to stop Stevenage playing rather than to play our way and let them do the worrying.

It is very difficult; and rightly so; to criticise a Manager who has achieved so much this season but the same as the players he is open to criticism for his performance on this match the same as the players are and in my opinion he got it totally wrong last night and played a big part in one of our most subdued 45 minutes in the first half and then having to use three subs to try to put right what had gone wrong, for me this was Carlisle all over a game with the only difference being that it took him longer to change it round when it was pretty clear that it wasn’t working . This is my opinion but some will have seen it completely differently and maybe it was the plan working perfectly to let them wear themselves out and then hit them with a late goal when they ran out of steam. In my opinion it was a match plan that went totally wrong and the only consolation is that I am writing on another point towards the total and not a defeat. It may yet turn out to be a vital point and not the vital two points lost which is in my thoughts at the moment. Perhaps we are better as the chasers rather than the chased. We have an exciting three matches now to find out.

Mildenhall 6 Did little wrong other than his kicking at times was pretty poor but in all honesty he was not needed to be at his best or even anything above average because Stevenage were like a blunt sword and although there was a lot of action from opponents that looked better than their lowly position it was clear to see why they find themselves in that position as they rarely looked like scoring.

Leadbitter 5 Should have given us the lead just before halftime but instead put the ball hurriedly wide. in my opinion he looked far less impressive as a wing back as, again in my opinion, he will never be a good winger and his performance was pretty much on par with his last poor performance which was again when he was played wing back! He has been outstanding in his last couple of appearances and for me this was an unnecessary change as he changed from a solid, quick full back who has good pace to bring the ball out to a player who looked confused as to what his role was and in a position that clearly showed his weaknesses and resulted in his inevitable substitution. (It would not surprise me one bit now if he finds himself back on the bench Saturday as James Clarke is then preferred to him in a flat back four) This is a weird dilemma.

J. Clarke 6.5 Played well although started off looking a bit rusty which is to be expected. In truth we had three centre halves doing a job that could have been done to far greater effect by two as Stevenage offered very little in terms of ability up front and were easily contained. James got forward well in the second half and despite his lack of pace managed to get into some good positions but like most of our crossing on the night it came to very little as was soaked up by the two centre halves who coped with everything we threw at them in the air.

Lockyer 8 A standard performance from Tom, read every situation well, got in some good tackles but as is often the case he reads the situation so well that no tackle is necessary and he brought the ball out confidently and won the majority of aerial tussles.

Parkes 8.5 MOM Not sure if Mark McCrystal was dropped or injured (I would have thought the latter) but it seems to me that DC does not want to play Parkes in a back four but have the extra centre half to cover him. Anyway IMO he was outstanding last night in everything he did, clearing up where necessary and I think it was him who put in some important challenges in the second half although it was so far away it was difficult to tell. He was not troubled at all and came through with a good strong performance after so long on the sidelines and now makes it a tough decision on Saturday if we go back to two centre halves. To be honest I felt he was MOM but either of the Stevenage Centre halves on the night would have scored 9 as they had a lot more to do and were outstanding.

Brown 6 An Ok game he got forward well at times particularly in the first half but the problem last night was not only the quality of crosses that came from him and Leadbitter but the fact that neither of our strikers looked capable of beating the two centre halves in the air so it was a frustrating evening all round as we seemed to play to Stevenage’s strengths rather than exploit their weaknesses. We had two free kicks where we should have done better as they were crying out for Liam Lawrence to be on the pitch but I was very surprised that Browner didn’t just hit the last one at goal.

O. Clarke 6.5 Worked hard and got in a couple of decent tackles but was part of a midfield that for me considering we had three players in the centre with two more out wide failed to get into the game until the second half and we made Stevenage look a much better side than they actually are. In some ways he was the best of the bunch in that he broke up play and tried to get attacks moving but for me both defences came out on top and contained the best performances. Ollie was unlucky with one strike in the second half which was well hit but unfortunately straight at the keeper. Overall a reasonable performance but there is something missing as what he does is good but it just isn’t often enough and for long periods of this game Stevenage had far too much space in this area. Is this down to following instructions or just how the players play I am not sure.

Lines 7 Got into the game more and more as the game went on but still IMO falls short of the mark and too often tries to accomplish the difficult pass when the simple pass is on. This said he does have this look of class and when you look back on this game he was involved in a lot of the moves and had a lot of the ball. It was interesting that after the game the Stevenage reporter was forever talking about the class we had in the midfield with Lines and him being the sort of player they would like to have so perhaps my mark of 7 isn’t far off!!

Gosling 6 Showed one or two good moments including a vicious shot that hit the post but that was about it. A very strange selection , he was given a great chance by DC to break into the team again but for me he blew it and proved what I thought, that he just isn’t good enough but to be fair to him perhaps he should have been played wide right.

Taylor 5 Just one of those games where we did not play to his strengths and his whole body language sometimes shows that. Can’t fault DC for leaving him on the pitch as it only takes a second to score a goal and Matty has been in top form in scoring in the last eight games but the record was not and never looked like being beaten last night where both him and Gaffney failed to put their mark on the game.

Gaffney 5 Not at the races and constantly beaten by the two central defenders. When he did get a good chance in the second half he scuffed his shot miles wide when a pass to a colleague was a far better option. Personally I would have substituted him before half time as there were no signs other than a few neat lay offs that he would ever get the better of his opponent. This to me seemed obvious yet not to our players who continued throughout the time he was on the pitch to sling the ball up in his direction and watch what became inevitable as the centre halves continually won the aerial challenge with ease.

Subs:

Bodin 6 Can’t understand why he was dropped and came closest to breaking the deadlock with a shot that looked like even with the touch of the keepers hand that it was going in the corner but went agonisingly an inch the wrong side of the post. He is a player who is capable of scoring vital goals even if he is not playing well and surely he would have scored had it been him and not Leadbitter in the position at the end of the first half. It really is a strange one with Bodin because he does seem to go missing for large parts of a game but that is possibly a strength because when he does get the ball something generally happens.

Harrison 6 Didn’t do an awful lot in the short time he was on but the most noticeable was that he actually won two flicks in the air against opponents who had an aerial dominance. He leapt for the ball where Gaffney failed to compete in any shape or form. If DC is not going to start Ellis then surely he should be giving McBurnie a bit of time or is this going to be another loanee who is not given a fair chance.

Easter 7 Another good appearance from him but again far too late. Whilst he does not have the pace to be a deadly striker anymore he certainly is no slouch and caused Stevenage problems when he had the ball. One heavy touch was his only blemish and he was involved so much in the very short time he was on the pitch and has that touch of class about him that surely is worth starting him in the centre of midfield.

Crowd 6 At times the support was loud but for much of the game were really subdued probably by nerves at the importance of the game but also caused by our lack of dominance in the first half against opponents who really we should be beating, however nearly 1400 on a Tuesday night is good in anybody’s book.

Stevenage 6

DC Sorry folks but IMO the Messiah got it totally wrong and fell into the trap of treating the opponents with far too much respect and for me whilst it is refreshing to have a Manager who is not scared of making substitution IMO this was an occasion where he had to make the substitutions to right his poor selection. That may seem harsh but when you change a winning team in both personnel and formation you leave yourself very open to criticism especially where you change players who have had very good games. I cannot believe that any scouting report would not have picked up that a) the two central defenders were awesome in the air b) the strikers that Stevenage have are pretty poor and therefore why on earth did we just continually loft the ball in the air and play three centre halves.

Sometimes Darrell it is best to just stick with proven ideas ie keeping where possible a winning team and letting thew opponents worry about us.

Ref 5 How on earth did he allow the goalkeeper continually to waste time and yet only add on three minutes when there were six substitutions? Apart from that thought he was awful in the first half and slightly better in the second.

Stevenage 6 Certainly a better side than their position suggests and I thought during the game that maybe we should try to sign their centre half as he was very commanding in the air which is something we lack however I then thought he can’t be that good being in their position and perhaps he just had a good night or was made to look good. They looked to pass the ball around and did it well until they got near to the goal and then that was them as their forwards were awful at best.

It is ironic that a point away whoever it is against is a reasonable return and Pompey must be looking with envy after their result at York however for me this was two points lost and if we were going to drop a point then I expected it to be Saturday against Exeter. I am left today just thinking that the Manager whilst winning us many points this season with his tinkering and tactics last night cost us the result. We may have lost the battle last night but can we still win the war? The problem as you get nearer the end is that relying on others to lose or draw whilst still winning yourself is more of a lottery and you just have to hope that the gods are looking down on you. IMO the Northampton game was a good draw and this one a poor one but both resulted in the same thing and us dropping out of the top 3 and promotion no longer being in our own hands. It is almost like the pressure of controlling our own destiny is greater than chasing the others.

So the remaining games are

Accrington York H Wycombe A Stevenage H

Oxford Hartlepool H Carlisle A Wycombe H

Plymouth Dagenham H Cambridge A Hartlepool H

Portsmouth Wycombe H Wimbledon A Hartlepool A Northampton H

Personally whilst it is not beyond us to win our three remaining games I feel the most important thing is that we go into the last game in control of our own destiny and the only way that will come about IMO is if we win our next two games. Based on those games I would make Accrington favourites and as for the next game I would say we have the toughest game and will be very surprised if Accrington, Oxford, Plymouth and Portsmouth don’t all win Saturday but Football can be a funny old game and at this stage I think we have to hope it is!

As for team selection  I would go for

Mildenhall

Leadbitter     Lockyer      Parkes (or McCrystal)  Brown

Lines          Mansell       Montano

Easter

McBurnie              Taylor

This said it is far more difficult to try to select what the actual team will be and how they will play. UTG

2 Responses to “MATCH REPORT: Selection questionable, Outcome still in contention

  • andrew snell
    2 years ago

    Steve
    you should have tried row e seat 62, middle behind the goal where if seated, the top of cross bar obscured the other end of pitch !
    Just as well that in this area everyone was standing.
    Guess in general terms an away point would be acceptable, but IMO it was a disappointing performance.
    Lockyer was commanding, and Easter showed some neat touches on his arrival, but overall “something” was missing.
    Interesting that immediately around me were different supporters from Leamington Spa, Grantham, and Northampton — indicating how loyal ex Bristolian Gas supporters are.
    London Gas

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